Many people enjoy outdoor dining, which has become a new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, when smoking is allowed in outdoor dining areas, customers and employees are at risk of exposure to toxic secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol every day. Preventing this is more important than ever. Recent studies have shown that smoking doubles your risk of developing respiratory infections, including COVID-19, and getting sicker from it.

Last year, Imperial Beach community members worked with the American Lung Association to survey residents and identify restaurants that were already smoke-free. Results showed that nine in ten (90%) nonsmokers and the majority (83%) of smokers preferred to eat in smoke-free outdoor dining areas. Six out of ten (60%) restaurants with outdoor dining areas were already smoke-free. 

“Imperial Beach is a family-friendly city dedicated to providing a healthy environment for residents and visitors,” said Imperial Beach resident Ramón Hernandez, DrPH, MPH, UCSD School of Medicine. “Our city made beaches and parks smoke-free in 2006 and is a national leader in keeping our waterfront areas clean and safe. Smoke-free outdoor dining seemed like the logical next step.” 

Imperial Beach residents, including the Resident Leadership Academy, worked with the mayor and city council to identify a healthy solution: a new law requiring all outdoor dining areas to be smoke-free. The measure passed unanimously in January 2020. Supporters filled council chambers, and not a single person spoke against the law. 

Thank you, Imperial Beach!

To learn more about local smoke-free policies, visit

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